Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita bacon festival adds craft beer

Plenty of bacon will be available at Saturday’s Air Capital Bacon & Beer Festival at Hartman Arena.
Plenty of bacon will be available at Saturday’s Air Capital Bacon & Beer Festival at Hartman Arena. Courtesy of Jade Presents

Last year, Hartman Arena was offering just bacon, and that was enough to draw hungry fans in droves. More than 2,500 people crammed into the building for the first Midwest Baconfest in late March, and some left frustrated by the setup and crowds.

This year, Hartman Arena is giving the event another try, but they’ve hired a professional festival firm to organize it and have added a second headliner – craft beer.

Now run by Jade Presents out of Fargo, N.D, Saturday’s Air Capital Bacon & Beer Festival will allow attendees to taste bacon-centric creations from 14 local restaurants, including Hurts Donut, Two Brothers BBQ and Ms. Tosha’s Chicken, and sample from 100 different beers provided by 13 local and regional breweries.

The event, scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, also will include a bacon-eating contest, a rideable mechanical pig, live music and more. All of the samples and activities are included with the price of a ticket, which is $30 in advance, $35 the day of the event. A $60 VIP ticket offers entry one hour earlier, access to a Bloody Mary and BLT bar, and a commemorative pint glass and bottle opener.

“We knew that this area really loves bacon and really loves beer, and we wanted to keep that kind of festival in the market,” said Abby Marr, Hartman Arena’s director of sales and marketing. “It was a lot easier to say, ‘Let’s use your business model and let’s keep bringing bacon and beer to Wichita.’”

Jade Presents runs several successful Bacon & Beer Festivals across the country, including in Saginaw, Mich., Grand Forks, N.D., and Davenport, Iowa.

Last year, attendees at Wichita’s event complained that it was too crowded, that lines were too long and that when they finally got to the front of some lines, they’d find out food was for sale and not for sample.

Pennie Fike, who is Jade Presents’ co-director of events, said those issues should be resolved this year. None of the bacon treats, which will range from chocolate-dipped bacon to maple bacon pancakes to bacon-wrapped fried chicken, will cost extra. All of the beer samples will be free, too.

The company also will provide a more-detailed map that will show attendees exactly what they’re getting at each booth. And this year, they’re limiting ticket sales to 2,000.

The bacon will be flowing, too.

“We will also have bacon butlers walking around that are just sampling up bacon strips while you’re waiting in line,” Fike said. “It’s crafted so we’ll have plenty of bacon to go around.”

The festival will feature live music from Those Party Bros and people can watch five people compete in a bacon-eating contest. Competitors will dig into giant piles of bacon, and the person who eats the most in the allotted time will get a year’s supply of free bacon.

Assuming they still want it.

Air Capital Beer & Bacon Festival

What: A bacon and craft beer tasting and party featuring 14 restaurants and 13 breweries

When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hartman Arena, Park City

Tickets: Must be 21 to enter. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 day of the event, $60 VIP. Advance tickets available at www.hartmanarena.com